Coronavirus UK news – Furlough scheme extended to MARCH as 2nd national lockdown starts TODAY – Watch Rishi speech live

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LOCKDOWN TWO

Live Blog

5 Nov 2020, 12:29Updated: 5 Nov 2020, 12:29

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak is poised to extend the furlough scheme to March - well beyond the date the second lockdown is due to end.

The Chancellor is about to give a statement nearly a week after it was confirmed that the job retention scheme would continue for a month into December - after Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on Saturday.

You can watch that statement here, live on this page, by clicking on the video above now.

Bank of England bosses are also expected to pump up to £200 billion of extra money into the economy.

Follow our coronavirus blog for the latest news and updates...

'IMMENSE COMFORT'

Rishi said that the government has been attacked over its decision to go into lockdown and to extend the furlough scheme.

He said: “I'll leave it to the people of this country to decide whether it is a good or bad thing to alter our economic plans.

“What I know is it will save millions of jobs, what I know is today's announcement will give people and businesses up and down our country and immense comfort to what will be a difficult winter.”

'WE HOPE FOR THE BEST'

Sunak said that given the changed public health restrictions and the 'economic trauma', he felt it best to extend the furlough scheme, rather than transition to the new job scheme.

'ECONOMIC IMPACT WAS SIGNIFICANT'

“Our belief is that we would be able to stay ahead of the virus.

“The virus however continued to spread, localised restrictions were having an impact. As restrictions intensified the economic impact was significant.”

RISHI SUNAK:

“I know that people watching at home will have been frustrated by the changes in tha past few weeks.

“I've had to make rapid adjustments to the economic changes. “

FURLOUGH ANNOUNCMENT

Rishi Sunak started by summing up the job and business measures that have already been introduced.

He said the government has also spent £200bn on Covid measures.

WILL WE BE IN LOCKDOWN UNTIL MARCH?

Speaking on BBC Politics live, Tom Tugendhat, MP said: “No, I think the debate yesterday made it clear the government will find that very difficult to pass. This is merely to give stability to businesses to know they have a cushion until March.”

NEW FURLOUGH SCHEME PREDICTIONS

The Chancellor is expected to say: “The furlough scheme was designed and delivered by the Government of the United Kingdom on behalf of all the people of the United Kingdom – wherever they live.

“That has been the case since March; it is the case now; and it will remain the case until next March.”

FURLOUGH EXTENTION

The Chancellor is about to give a statement nearly a week after it was confirmed that the job retention scheme would continue for a month into December – after Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on Saturday evening.

The Sun revealed today the Chancellor is expected to extend the furlough scheme past the 2 December – when the lockdown is set to end across England.

The Chancellor is expected to announce the furlough scheme will continue to be on offer in any area of the UK that faces the highest level of Covid restrictions – including Tier 3 areas of England. 

TEST AND TRACE REACHED LOWEST PROPORTION OF CONTACTS

The NHS Test and Trace system has reached the lowest ever proportion of contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.

Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive are still not being reached by the system, at the same time as it recorded its highest weekly number of positive cases.

A total of 137,180 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to October 28 – an increase of 8% on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

According to the latest figures, 59.9% of close contacts of people who tested positive in England were reached through the system in the week ending October 28.

BREAKING: SUNAK TO EXTEND FURLOUGH SCHEME TO MARCH

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to extend furlough until March 2021, according to sources.

The full details are expected to be revealed in the Commons shortly.

It is unclear if it will remain at 80 per cent or will be capped.

HIGHEST WEEKLY NUMBER OF POSITIVE CASES SINCE MAY

A total of 137,180 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to October 28, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May, and is an increase of 8% in positive cases on the previous week.

Some 59.9% of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were reached through the Test and Trace system in the week ending October 28, according to the latest figures.

This is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began.

The figure is down from 60.6% for the previous week.

CROYDON TRAM CRASH INQUEST DELAYED

An inquest into the Croydon tram crash that killed seven people has been postponed until spring 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A 12-week hearing was due to begin on November 16.

The inquest at Croydon's Fairfield Halls was expected to hear arguments that human error and safety failings contributed to the accident on November 9 2016, which also left 51 people injured.

Courts are exempt from England's national four-week coronavirus lockdown, but Sarah Ormond-Walshe, senior coroner for south London, decided it is “likely that a hearing of this size can be conducted much more safely in spring 2021”.

She said: “In my judgment, it is not so essential that we proceed now rather than in, say, March/April 2021, that I should unnecessarily increase the risk to the health of participants.

COMMUTER CHAOS ON THE FIRST DAY OF LOCKDOWN

Roads, Tubes and trains were rammed this morning on the first day of the second national lockdown – despite calls for people to work from home.

Traffic was very high during rush hour as the new restrictions came in, and hundreds of commuters still crammed into stations.

Between 7am and 8am this morning London's congestion was at 38 per cent, with 526 traffic jams on the day the country was due to shut down.

Data from TomTom reported this is up on the 27 per cent congestion seen at the same time last week.

Underground stations were full of commuters this morning, with trains still packed.

PEOPLE 'ALLOWED TO TRAVEL ABROAD FOR ASSISTED DYING' SAYS HANCOCK

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people are allowed to leave their homes for the purposes of travelling abroad for assisted dying during the second lockdown in England.

Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell asked an urgent question in the Commons on the subject and said he was worried the lockdown “could deter” people from making such a journey.

Mr Hancock told MPs: “The new coronavirus regulations which come into force today place restrictions on leaving the home without a reasonable excuse.

“Travelling abroad for the purpose of assisted dying is a reasonable excuse and so anyone doing so would not be breaking the law.”

LEISURE SPOTS TO BE AT 'FRONT OF QUEUE' WHEN LOCKDOWN IS OVER

Gyms, swimming pools and golf courses will be at the “front of the queue” to return when the second lockdown in England is lifted, according to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

Conservative Rob Butler said Aylesbury constituents have made requests to keep the facilities open to help maintain their physical and mental health, asking: “What can (Mr Dowden) do to convince the Cabinet Office to consider this?”

Mr Dowden replied in the Commons: “I can assure him I'm working closely with other ministers across Government to ensure they will be at the front of the queue to return when these restrictions expire.”

FRANKIE BOYLE TAKES UP YOGA TO BATTLE 'LONG COVID'

Frankie Boyle has revealed he has been doing yoga to battle the effects of 'long Covid'.

The comedian contracted coronavirus at the start of the pandemic while doing gigs in London.

The initial flu-like symptoms cleared up within days but he thinks it caused damage to his lungs which went on for months.

Boyle, 48, is now following a strict yoga regime with an online instructor to help him recover from the illness.

He said: “I don't think my lung capacity came back to normal for months.

“I came up to Glasgow and took up yoga. I was already doing it a little but then I really stepped it up. I feel a lot stronger.”

CHRISTMAS TREE GROWERS TO HAVE BUMPER SALES THIS YEAR

British Christmas tree growers are expecting bumper sales as the pandemic is forcing people to stay at home this year.

One grower is even going the extra mile to help customers who are isolating or shielding by introducing Zoom appointments so they can see their tree before buying online.

There were initial concerns growers would have to close at their busiest time of year for the lockdown, but they can stay open like garden centres.

And some growers think the Covid-19 crisis will result in people who wouldn't normally buy Christmas trees getting one for the first time this year.

Peter Hyde, from Trinity Street Christmas Trees in Dorchester, Dorset, will open his site as usual on November 28, with Covid-safe measures in place.

GRASSROOTS SPORTS 'TO BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO RETURN'

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said grassroots sports “will be one of the first to return” when the current lockdown restrictions are lifted in England.

Conservative MP Shaun Bailey raised the plight of grassroots football clubs in his West Bromwich West constituency.

Responding during DCMS questions, Mr Dowden told the Commons: “I know that football clubs large and small make a huge contribution to their community on and off the pitch.

“And I can assure my honourable friend they won't be forgotten. As soon as we're in a position to start lifting restrictions grassroots sports will be one of the first to return.

“But until then we have made sure that families can keep exercising throughout this lockdown so I would urge people to get out and get fit.”

MILLIONS OF SHIELDING LETTERS TO BE SENT OUT

Millions of vulnerable people are set to receive shielding letters telling them to “stay at home at all times” during the second nationwide Covid lockdown.

Those in the clinical extremely vulnerable category have been told to stay away from supermarkets but can go out for exercise and doctors appointments.

People who are shielding are more at risk of death, or developing serious complications from the coronavirus.

In order to cope with new lockdown measures, and a rise in cases of the coronavirus, the NHS yesterday announced that it would be entering into a level 4 alert.

By keeping the most vulnerable away from risking infection, it is thought that less people who already have underlying health conditions will contract the virus and need to use NHS services.

RISE IN MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS DURING LOCKDOWN

Professor Yvonne Doyle, director of health protection at Public Health England (PHE), said the spring lockdown caused a rise in mental distress, with reports up 8% compared with the same period in previous years.

It came as the health body announced its Every Mind Matters campaign to highlight the mental health support available for people after England entered a second national lockdown.

According to the campaign, more than 30% of adults reported mental distress which suggested they might need treatment.

Prof Doyle told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “These are common mental disorders that may come and go and there are things people can do about it themselves – there is a lot of help available.

“I think it is important to stress that these symptoms of anxiety, they are almost normal in a situation where everybody is out of their routine and it is very difficult for everybody.”

COUPLES OFFERED £1,500 IN LOCKDOWN SEX EXPERIMENT

Couples are being offered £1,500 to be 'aphrodisiac testers' – as six in ten admit they are stuck in a sexual rut during lockdown.

Successful applicants will spend two months trying out fruits, vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, chili peppers, asparagus, lavender, rosemary and fennel – and then report back on their love lives.

They will be quizzed on how much sex they had before lockdown and during testing to help create a guide to the most effective aphrodisiac foods.

The search for three couples aged 25 to 65 and living in the same household comes after 61 per cent of adults admitted lockdown has lowered their libido.

Three in ten – 29 per cent – say they have simply become bored with sex, the survey of 2,000 adults aged 18 to 60 found.

And almost as many – 28 per cent – confess that despite being stuck at home they are now actually having less sex than before lockdown.

ALZHEIMER'S SOCIETY LIKENS CARE HOMES TO PRISON

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said seeing loved ones living in care homes from behind screens and windows are some of a host of options provided in the “non-exhaustive” Government coronavirus regulations for social care.

The Alzheimer's Society has called the screens “prison-style” and “frankly ridiculous”.

“It is one of a number of suggested means which could be used,” the Justice Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme when confronted with the criticism.

“The guidance will not be an exhaustive list of 'you must do this'. For example, the idea about window visits, which can work for ground-floor residents, is in there too.

“I expect this guidance to be very much the beginning of a process where, with sensible ideas and local initiatives, we can come up with sensible ideas for seeing our loved ones.”

Asked about the idea of regularly testing a nominated family member to allow in-person visits, Mr Buckland said the Government is “interested in all ideas that are Covid-compliant” and that its own guidance is “non-exhaustive”.

COPS BREAK UP HOUSE PARTY IN LEICESTERSHIRE

Police body-cam footage shows massive house party being broken up where revellers were found hiding in a bathroom and underneath the bed

Officers can be seen entering the flat where more than 30 party-goers were crammed inside on October 11.

The footage shows one officer going into the bedroom and lifting up the mattress to talk to one person who is hiding under the bed.

Leicestershire Police released the footage on Wednesday ahead of Britain's second lockdown as a reminder they “will use enforcement if rules are broken.”

Assistant Chief Constable Kerry Smith said: “I cannot stress enough that anyone could face a 10k fine from police for breaking the rules.

“We all want to get life back to normal. However, we have to accept that isn't going to happen right now and those who are breaking the rules are prolonging the agony of others, their actions having an impact on local businesses, the NHS and people's lives.”

BANK OF ENGLAND PUMPS ANOTHER £150BN INTO ECONOMY

The Bank of England has unleashed another £150 billion of action to bolster the battered economy and warned that output will fall in the final three months of 2020 as a result of the second lockdown.

Members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to expand its quantitative easing (QE) programme to a mammoth £895 billion, but held rates at the historic low of 0.1%.

It said gross domestic product (GDP) will pick up in the first quarter of 2021, but warned that activity will still remain “materially lower” than before the coronavirus crisis.

The decision came as England began a second national lockdown on Thursday.

Experts fear it could plunge the UK into a double-dip recession, but the Bank's latest forecasts suggests the economy will narrowly avoid this as activity recovers at the start of next year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also expected to outline further government support for the economy to see it through the latest restrictions when he makes a statement later on Thursday.

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